Bangladesh: What Is Happening?


by a Bengali UWC Alumnus
August 8th, 2018


Young blood or just a Bengali adroitness to protest, whatever the reason was I still felt that the student-led movement to ensure safe roads would be a short-lived one with little impact. Very few would have blamed me for my premature assumption, considering how a developing country’s progress to becoming developed has been plagued by greedy corruption, backtracked politicians and fascist ideologies.
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For those of you unaware of the happenings in Bangladesh, on the 29th of July, a good Sunday, two school-going teenagers were fatally run over by yet another reckless bus driver while 9 others were hospitalized. Although such common incidents are usually just recorded as a misdemeanour in the daily newspapers, the bottled-up anger of a warm-blooded youth population had certainly reached a tipping point, with the friends of the two very-missed students at the forefront, hunting for justice. Just like the Shahbagh protests in 2013 the Bangladeshi populace, particularly the youth, have a heartening tendency to unite in regard to truly purposeful missions and the last week’s agenda was no exception to that.
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Thousands of students flooded the streets to ask for the simple 9-point demand to be met:

 

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To my Western readers, some of these will appear as things one needn’t demand but already pre-exist, however some of the others I can explain. In regard to the Shipping Minister, following the accident and the beginning protests the ‘humble’ minister made a statement along the lines of “A road crash has claimed 33 lives in India’s Maharashtra; but do they talk about it like the way we do?” I feel there’s no need to clarify further.
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Students from all educational and social backgrounds not only gathered in unison to march in protest but they also took to the roads to demonstrate to the State and law enforcers that it was possible to instigate proper traffic laws in our country with thousands checking for driver licenses, coordinating cars to ensure minimal traffic as well as also teaching rickshaw pullers how to maintain traffic lanes. I would feel that the sight would bring a smile to anybody’s mouth but clearly the proceeding week’s events revealed otherwise.
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Two weeks prior to this meltdown jokes had been exchanged in regard to the North Korean situation and the of information available to its general population. However, Saturday evening to Sunday evening nobody was to joke about North Korea for the local government had exercised textbook suppression of information by shutting down/slowing down mobile data services across the country. Furthermore, prominent online news websites were blocked with CNN appearing empty on the situation in Dhaka until just two days ago. Shahidul Alam, a prominent Bengali photographer, who had made a statement to international media, was promptly taken in and beaten by authorities and is yet to be released. However, when the government was questioned in regards to why these measures, ‘it was all to stop the spread of ‘’fake news’’’.
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Innocent students have clashed with political groups who have tried to bring a peaceful protest to a bloody halt. And students being the educated beings they are have gone home seeking safety, trying to find other non-deadly ways of addressing the situation.
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On Monday, a draft of the Road Transport Act 2018 was approved by the government and although optimists will look at this with hope and view it as progress, less trusting activists have deemed the punishment insufficient when compared to violation in other areas of the law.
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Although at UWC, we have debated endlessly on the matter of international intervention what Bangladesh needs right now is international awareness. So please keep following the news to see how things unfold, voice your opinion and share as much as you can because this suppressed state really needs your attention.

 

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